Thursday, March 22, 2007

First Verifiably Historical Persons in Genesis

Alice C. Linsley

Just Genesis addresses a wide range of topics related to the first book of the Bible. You will find all the articles here listed alphabetically by topic in the INDEX.

To get us started, we'll consider some common questions. 
Where do readers of Genesis first encounter historical persons in Genesis?

The first cerifiably historical persons in Genesis are the men and women listed in the Genesis 4 and 5 king lsists.  These are the lines of Cain and Seth which intermarried. Cain and Seth married cousins who were the royal daughters of Enoch I.

Adam and Eve are likely ahistorical represenstations of the first human couple created by God. As such, they would have lived at least 3 million years ago and were fully human and in the divine image. In the Kushite context of Abraham's ancesotrs they are archetypal first ancestors of the Nilotic peoples. It is common among Nilotic tribes to have names for the founders of their tribe. The Gikuyu, for example, call their ancestral heads Gikuyu and Mumbi. 

The first historical persons in the Bible are ruler-priests of the lines of Cain (Gen. 4) and his brother Seth (Gen. 5)  Cain and Seth are the progenitors of the people who God would later call into covenant with Him. Their lines intermarried. Only first-born sons are listed and one daughter, Naamah (Gen.4:22), suggesting that she is important. Indeed, she is key to understanding the kinship pattern of Abraham's ancestors.

Naamah married her patrilineal cousin, Methuselah (Gen. 5:26), and named their first-born son Lamech after her father.  This is but one of many examples in the Bible of what I have termed "the cousin bride's naming prerogative."  The naming of the first-born son of a ruler by his cousin or niece bride reflects an ancient Nilotic custom of giving a throne name.  The cousin bride's son does not ascend to the throne of his biological father.  He is the heir to the throne of his maternal grandfather.

What is the nature of the information found in Chapters 4 and 5?

The “begets” of Genesis 4 and 5 present a very old kinship pattern which I have diagrammed and analyzed using E.L. Schusky’s Manual for Kinship Analysis, probably one of the most important books of the 20th century. Kinship patterns are like cultural signatures. Once a pattern is identified, it can often be used to trace the original homeland of a people or peoples. This means that analysis of the kinship pattern presented in Genesis 4 and 5 can direct us to the probable homeland of Abraham’s ancestors. Since the pattern is distinctly Nilotic, we can safely consider that Abraham's ancestors came out of the Nile region.  Genesis tells us that this is so.  Abraham is a descendant of Kush and Kush designates a vast territory that ran the length of the Upper Nile and extended during the Late Holocene Wet Period into what is today the Sahara of west central Africa.

Abraham never lived in west central Africa because he was a descendant of Nimrod who had left Kush to establish a territory in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley between Haran and Ur.  That is where we first meet Abraham in Genesis 12.

What does analysis of the genealogical information reveal about Abraham’s ancestors?

Analysis of the kinship pattern of Abraham and his ancestors reveals that these rulers maintained two wives in separate households on a north-south axis. Before a man could ascend to his father's throne, he had to take his second wife. The first wife was a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham.  The second wife was a patrilineal cousin or niece, as was Keturah to Abraham.  The wives' separate households marked the northern and southern boundaries of the chief’s territory. By his two wives, the ruler had two first-born sons whose lines intermarried. By this means the ruler-priests maintained purity of their lines. The pattern continues throughout the Bible and appears to end with Joseph, of the ruler-priest line of Mattai, and his cousin bride Mary, daughter of the shepherd priest Joachim.

Related reading:  Nimrod: Afro-Asiatic Kingdom Builder; Who Were the Kushites?; The Migration of Abraham's Kushite Ancestors; The Cousin Bride's Naming Prerogative


Bronwen said...

It is so wonderful to see your reasearch beginning to be laid out on this blog. I look forward to reading more and learning more.

nancy said...

Interesting comments on African orgins. Do you haave any bibliography or books you might cite?

Alice C. Linsley said...

One of the best books on this subject is "The Sons of the Gods and The Daughters of Men: An Afro-Asiatic Interpretaton of Genesis 1-11" by Modupe Oduyoye. Maryknoll, NY 1984 I'm afraid it didn't get a wide reading when it first appeared. Oduyoye is a Nigerian philologist who noticed the correspondence between the names of people and places in Genesis 1-11 and the names of people and places in West Africa.

Mark said...

Does Africa have flood stories? My apologies if I am jumping the gun on future posts.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Africa has flood stories, for sure. There have been numerous floods at the confluences of the great rivers such as the Benue and the Niger. Also flooding around Lake Chad. At one point that area of Africa was so wet that the ground was springy. We will address this when we explore the textual evidence touching on the Afro-Asiatic chief Noah.

Thanks, Les, for the plug. I look forward to hearing from your readers and I will visit your blog.

NigerianAnglican said...


That is a whole lot of research. I can identify with the Ile-Ife story as I schooled there for 5 years. It is near impossible to convince an elderly Ife person that the world did not start there.

Well aware of the Nok civilisation, this is the first time I am seeing a correlation with Enoch, Kano with Kain etc. truly amazing. must find time to do some research in these.

Well done Alice

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, honored guest, Canon Tunde, Communications Officer for the Church of Nigeria. Please let me know what you discover in your research. I hope for considerable input from West Africans at this site. This is an area of research that must involve collaboration.

Jeannee said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I am looking forward to learning much more and I find this very interesting.

For some time I have felt moved to communicate with you regarding some spiritual guidance you might be able to share with me. I look for your meditations and comments on various blogs and have always come away blessed. I am from the Diocese of San Joaquin and am hoping you can email me. Blessings.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Jeannee, feel free to contact me at this address:

Did you know my cousin Janet Wilcox? She was in that Diocese until she died in 2003, after a full and rewarding life. I'm glad she didn't live to see the tragic events that have developed in her beloved Episcopal Church!

Linda M said...

Hmm. An important difference in the creation stories is that of the Christian belief that God created everything from nothing. Only Genesis relays this idea. Also, if Adam and Eve are archetypes and not persons, what is your understanding of the fall and original sin? How did we get from "very good" to sinful down to our toenails? Also, how do you view the river names in Genesis - Pishon, Gihon and Tigris - do these correspond to an area in Africa? Are they not to be regarded as historical? Is the modern Tigris in the middle east named for the one in Edon? It may be that Adam and Eve and their story are symbolic but I remain undecided. You have clearly been working on this for some time and your posts are very thought provoking. Good work!

Alice C. Linsley said...

Linda, great comments! Thank you so much.

Africans do believe that God created ex nihilo. Also, the Tigris and Euphrates are exactly what the Bible says. There are two flood accounts in Genesis. One pertains to the Mesopotamian strata which represents the eastern cultural milieu of the Paleo-Dominion. The other pertains to the African Noah which represents the western. All the peoples of Genesis 10 are in the Afro-Asiatic language family, and these peoples extended from modern Nigeria to the Indus River Valley.

Adam and Eve are archetypes of all humanity. Their story perfectly describes our sinful, rebellious and fearful condition. That they chose from the Tree of knowledge ratehr than from the Tree of Life tells the whole story. The Church Fathers taught that the Tree of Life is the Cross and all humanity tries to avoid that Tree, yet it is our only way to Life.

Randy Beard said...

This is more of a question than a statement...
I have always been curious about the land of NOD, if Adam and Eve were the first man and woman that GOD created-who were the people in the land of NOD created by?
Were they not created in the image of God-the reasom that GENESIS doesn't explore their creation or beginnings.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject??
THANKS--Randy Beard

Alice C. Linsley said...

Welcome to Just Genesis, Randy! All humans are created in the "image and likeness" of God. Cain and his brother Seth married daughters of the Chief of Nok (Hebrew is "Enoch"). Nok is the oldest site of metal working in Africa, located on the Jos Plateau of modern Nigeria. I've written a good deal on this question. Please read the essay here on "Is the Land of Nod the Land of Nok?" The comments are helpful also. Then scroll up to the short piece "Where am I Going with This blog?" You will find further explanation there and the comments are terrific!

Best wishes!